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Walls Gets "Special Needs Unit"

By Mark LaRue

With increasing numbers of mentally ill people being sent to prison here in Washington, prison officials finally decided that something must be done to treat their particular needs here at the Penitentiary.

Dubbed a "Special Needs Unit" in a local paper, administrators have made plans to house 130 mentally disturbed prisoners in Five Wing. And they've hired 15 new mental health staff to care for their psychological needs.

All of this is good news for mentally ill prisoners in general. But it is particularly good news for those living in IMU. For years now the state has herded mentally disturbed prisoners into segregation, where they were housed on the same tiers as other population inmates. And everyone has suffered a great deal because of those living arrangements.

As of yet the Special Needs Unit has not been opened. But when it does 25 inmates are expected to leave the IMU population of less than a hundred, one can see there were many mental health cases housed here.

It is our hope that these men will get better treatment in Five Wing than they did in IMU.

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